Relationships are a intricate part of life and communication. We have relationships of many types from casual friends, neighbors, close friends, parents, siblings, spouse, children, work, employer, and many more. How we interact, communicate, react, act, and view others depends on our relationship with them, ourselves, others our brain deems like them, and others around us at the time. Some people are more influenced by some factors than others. sometimes a close relationship can mask truly unacceptable behaviors or words because we have viewed it through a filter. But things can change those filters and that can change our relationships in every area. Every action, reaction, bias, interaction, decision, and communication we have is influenced by the others in our past. Our mind tries to predict what the outcome will be and triggers responses down to our emotional state that may or may not be appropriate from someone else’s perspective. Some people pay attention to those responses and make more active decisions about response and some are happy with that state.
Have you ever had a time when something happened that changed how you viewed a whole host of other things? Relationships are subject to this same thing. You can be is a long term relationship that has been a comfortable place you don’t want to leave for years but a major pain in another relationship can suddenly cause you to see the red flags you were ignoring before. A conflict in one situation can be the last straw that leaves you unwilling to accept similar behaviors from anyone. Sudden realization of ongoing trauma and abuse in one relationship can cause you to see it it in others. Our relationships are not vacuums and our lives are an intricate web of who we are and who we are around, and what we do and think. Just as what we say and repeat impacts what we think, so do relationships affect each other.
How does your family and your past with them impact your spousal relationship? Do you have certain behaviors that trigger responses because of childhood? Do you have tones of voice that cause you to respond in predictable ways? Do you accept behaviors or words that you don’t agree with because you feel it is how things always are? Do you expect a level of intimacy or closeness that is in some way related to what you knew from your family? Do you fear being alone more than bad relationships? Do you fear bad relationships more than being alone? Has your family changed how you give or accept trust or compassion? Have you ever looked at these things and decided to change them and be aware of them?
We spend a great deal of our time at work. In the US, we often spend the majority of our time at work. These are the people we interact with the most and they will impact our other relationships. A stressful environment at work not only changes what you need and want at home but it changes our level of patience and communication. When I go home angry at a coworker that in many ways reminds me of my husband then I am less tolerant of things I might otherwise accept in my husband. The question is sometimes should I accept those behaviors and this is just lowering my tolerance wrongly; or is it just highlighting things incompatible to a relationship I want to have? I’m not sure I can answer that even for myself. Our work relationships may strengthen personal relationships like friends or they may strain them. I may leave with great relief to be out of there and with my friends or I may leave under too much stress to deal well with others. A happy work environment leaves you more able to have casual relationships that are not touched by work but how many of us have that?
So what about the other direction? When you fight with children or spouse in the morning do you enter the office affected by it? Maybe your commute is long enough to diffuse it or maybe it makes it worse. If you are having a long term issue with family does it change your mood at work? If it impacts your mood, it impacts your relationships. Returning to the we don’t live in a vacuum and our lives should be viewed as a whole picture not separate parts. When we try to be someone different for each hat we wear, we are straining all the others. The cross impacts can be positive or not, both from trauma and pleasure. A terrible fight can open your eyes to things in many other areas. A peaceful and wonderful trip can highlight the unhappiness in areas of life. A depressing occurrence in one relationship can hurt other relationships or tie them closer. A new strong friendship can show flaws in other relationships or show you why you love them all.
Our work/life balance is important because it is part of how we live, how we interact, how we grow, how we connect. Change and growth is good and should remain part of our lives all our lives but we also need the stable parts that draw our core. Some people need a stable job and career. Some need a home they own and love. Some need family connections. Some need the little rituals they can do anywhere like my bedtime pot of tea. For some it is a place, others a person. For some it is a feeling or a state of being, and for others it is whole picture. But the state of that stable point impacts our relationships. Knowing what our stable point is allows us more freedom in other areas that we may not need to be as stable in as we thought in our fear of change.
Relationships are work and they require patience, acceptance of others, commitment from all involved, communication, and time. But how often do we fall into the trap of sunk costs? A marriage is a commitment we made and it should be honored and helped, worked for and treasured. However, the sunk costs of our time, commitment, work, emotional state, and years of tolerance do not equate to requiring us to keep sinking our value into it if it is a lost cause or should be ended. How far does tolerance extend? Just because we are at a fragile state and accepted things in the beginning we should not have accepted, does not mean we should continue doing so. You should grow together so if one person heals and grows and sees these issue and the other can’t join that then there is likely little to be done. If communication and passion is a one way street there is no relationship in the positive sense. that leaves you in an unequal and destructive relationship that drains one person to feed another. Instability or unequal states can be emotional, verbal, physical, economic, and any other area of the relationship. It is not wrong to reevaluate those commitments and consider that all parties must be keeping the commitments or it is not being held to value.
Friendships have the same issue of sunk costs. A close friend for many years that has drifted away on their side but you still hold in the same position can be just as much a drain on you and the pain is real when you realize it. There is no vow or legal commitment to a friendship and you can choose each day how you will continue to connect to them and nurture a friendship they no longer care about but you hold dear. In any relationship there must be balance and communication but you have to be able to see when the communication is one sided and it is not of value to try and show someone something they don’t care to be a part of. Honesty is important and they must be honest and open with you or there is no path forward.
Blindness to reality is a disservice to you, to others, and to your relationships. We need to be open and clear minded to aid our best emotional state and nurture the relationships that nurture us. We also need to build the strength in ourselves that allows us to deal appropriately with unpleasant and but inescapable relationships like often occur at work or in families.
How many drains can you allow in your life before there isn’t enough in you to live your life? What areas can you or will you change to address the overabundance of drains and add more inflow and balanced interactions?
The painting is Nemesis, acrylic on stretched canvas by me.